Abductive Knowledge and Holmesian Inference

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The usual, comparative, conception of inference to the best explanation (IBE) takes it to be ampliative. In this paper I propose a conception of IBE ('Holmesian inference') that takes it to be a species of eliminative induction and hence not ampliative. This avoids several problems for comparative IBE (for example, how could it be reliable enough to generate knowledge?). My account of Holmesian inference raises the suspicion that it could never be applied, on the grounds that scientific hypotheses are inevitably underdetermined by the evidence (i.e. are inevitably ampliative). I argue that this concern may be resisted by acknowledging, as Timothy Williamson has shown, that all knowledge is evidence. The latter suggests an approach to resisting scepticism different from those (e.g. the reliabilist approach) that embrace fallibilism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Studies in Epistemology
EditorsTamar Szabo Gendler, John Hawthorne
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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